The Archive straddles two worlds with distinct rhythms.  It is, of course, a core part of the Red House’s public offering as a heritage site, which runs from March to October: Winter is spent on backstage tasks and on preparing for the new season.  However, the Archive is also a public service that runs all the year round, welcoming researchers, answering enquiries and developing the collections.  Our activities this winter fall into both categories.

Cataloguing continues throughout the year: we added over 1600 records to our database, the main areas of development being Peter Pears’ correspondence; photographs of Snape and the Red House; photographs and programmes relating to Kathleen Ferrier; and papers of the English Opera Group. Our team of volunteers are central to our cataloguing and have put in over 280 hours in the course of the winter.  Meanwhile, twenty-two researchers passed through, looking at topics as varied as as the critic Hans Keller, the musicologist and broadcaster Julian Herbage, and the history of the East Suffolk Hotel.

We loaned six items to Suffolk Archives for their exhibition on “Suffolk’s Green Story”, looking at environmental issues in the county with particular reference to the floods of 1953, and Chris spoke at a conference marking the start of the exhibition on Noyes Fludde and its relation to the great floods.  We also took part in a conference on “Preserving the Unpreservable”, on the challenges of preserving something as intangible as atmosphere: how we make the house feel as though Britten and Pears still live there and have just popped out to the shops.

Since the 2020 merger that created Britten Pears Arts the Archive has been involved in supporting work all across the organisation.  During the winter we met with the artists who run the Participate workshops for people living with Parkinson’s Disease and other long term health conditions, selecting items around which they could build musical reminiscence sessions, and hosted many groups of musicians who were performing at Snape.

Now, of course, we are approaching the new Red House open season and these last weeks of March will be spent in final preparations.  Final checks have taken place on the condition of materials in the exhibition, facts for the stewards’ folders have been researched and materials chosen for this year’s art exhibition.  We’ll be offering our regular Stories from the Archive sessions for the public who visit the Red House and, this year, for the first time we will be open on Saturdays as well.  We have also been working on archive input to the 2023 Aldeburgh Festival and on a run of archive-related events for the Development Team.  There’s no shortage of things to look forward to in the coming season!

- Dr Christopher Hilton, Head of Archive and Library